The exhibition, curated by Pietro C. Marani and Alessia Alberti, presents the discovered sheet to the public, alongside it with other works from the Drawings Cabinet of the Castello Sforzesco and with important loans from the Veneranda Biblioteca Ambrosiana.
The drawing object of the exhibition, which is presented here in a display case so as to allow the vision of both sides and after a restoration carried out by the Opificio delle Pietre Dure in Florence, entered the civic collections in 1924 through an important purchase from the Milanese sanctuary of Santa Maria near San Celso.
On the front of the sheet are figures copied from Leonardo's anatomical studies dating back to different eras and chronologies, from around 1487 to 1510-13. The attribution of the sheet demonstrates how the Master's originals were still all in the shop and could be copied variously by the students. Not only that, but a couple of these anatomical drawings, those finished in pen and ink, are of good quality and have been traced following a drawing below in red pencil, which could make one think of a first labile trace of Leonardo.
On the reverse of the sheet, however, a black pencil or charcoal writing refers to one of Leonardo's most debated paintings: "SALV TOR MUNDI". Perhaps it is a first draft for an epigraph or an explanatory text to be possibly included in the painting of the "Salvator Mundi" that Leonardo was working on around 1510-13. This is the era to which some of the replicas of the "Salvator Mundi" can therefore also go back, including the partial one, signed by Gian Giacomo Caprotti known as Salaì, dated 1511, now kept by the Ambrosiana Library.
The studies of figures and the anatomical details represented together with the type of paper, ancient but unfortunately without watermark, allow to place its realization in the context of the atelier of Leonardo da Vinci and to set the time of execution towards the beginning of the second decade of the sixteenth century, at a time when the master and his workshop were evidently developing the iconographic motif of the Salvator Mundi. The inscription on the back of the sheet is proof of this, perhaps traced in an attempt to develop an epigraph or a cartouche in Roman characters, to identify the subject of the painting.
Around the drawing are exposed, with reference to the subjects developed on the front, sixteenth-century studies of anatomy, while for the subject to which the writing on the verso refers, it is proposed with the variant of the Salvator Mundi painted in 1511 by the student of Leonardo Gian Giacomo Caprotti known as Salaì and now preserved in the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana.
Located next to the Sala delle Asse, the exhibition aims to allow the public to immerse themselves in the organization of the work and the construction site which also created the decoration of the large room, where some of the Maestro's best students were certainly at work.